Dominion Pardons & Waivers Services FAQ
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Canadian Pardon FAQ

We have compiled a list of frequently asked questions people have concerning their rights when it comes to Canadian Pardons. If you have a question that’s not on the list, please don’t keep it a secret – type your question here and we’ll answer it within 24 hours

Someone told me I need a record suspension to erase my criminal record. Is that the same thing as a pardon?

Yes. The Federal government has changed the official name ‘pardon’ to ‘record suspension’, but they mean the same thing. A record suspension serves to seal your criminal record from public view so that government, employers and others with access to the CPIC database cannot see it.

If I get a pardon, will some level of the criminal justice system still be able to see my record?

The short answer is no; your criminal record will essentially cease to exist once a pardon (record suspension) has been granted, and background checks will come back with “no criminal record found”. Someone would only be able to see your sealed record if you gave them express written permission to do so. The one exception would be for sexual offenses, which will result in a “red flag” being raised when a vulnerable sector search is conducted.

I was told I am not a good candidate to adopt a child because of a simple assault conviction 15 years ago. Shouldn’t my criminal record have disappeared by now?

No. It is a myth that records are purged after a few years; in reality, they are only purged when the subject of the record dies or turns 125, whichever comes first. That means your criminal conviction never disappears in your lifetime unless and until a pardon is granted to you. Adoption requires a vulnerable sector check and if your record is still showing up, it always will, until you receive a record suspension.

If an employer asks me if I have ever been in trouble with the law, can’t I just lie on the application form?

You could…but if your employer requests a criminal background check, you will have a lot of explaining to do. Technically, an employer cannot discriminate against you for having a record unless the offense(s) you committed would pose a risk to your ability to do the job in question. But in reality, employers can simply not hire you on the basis of having any kind of record at all, because they feel it puts your character into question. There is not much you can do about this except apply for a record suspension.

Do other countries offer criminal pardons?

Some do, but not many. It’s true that having a criminal record in Canada can make it much harder for you to get a fresh start in life; your ability to work, travel, attend university, volunteer, rent an apartment or see your children can be compromised by having a criminal record for which you haven’t been pardoned. But once you do receive that pardon, under the Canadian system, you essentially have a clean slate to start over.

I'm really only worried about one conviction – the other stuff is all petty misdemeanours. What can I do to get that one conviction off my record?

Getting a pardon is an all-or-nothing proposition. 100% of your record would be sealed if you receive a record suspension; everything in your file will be invisible, including charges that were dismissed or withdrawn, or for which you received a discharge. The only thing that would remain would be sex offenses, which are searchable with a vulnerable sector check.

Do I still need a pardon if I was under 18 at the time of my charges?

It depends. Most youth records are supposed to reside in a ‘special repository’, which means that some level of law enforcement may have access to them, as they are not destroyed outright; only summary convictions are completely destroyed 3 years after satisfaction of the sentence. But even if you were charged as a minor, if you are later convicted as an adult, the youth record would remain publicly visible. You would also need a pardon if your youth record occurred prior to the enactment of the Young Offenders Act, in 1984. For more information on your particular case, contact us to discuss the details.

I want to travel to the US. Will my Canadian pardon be recognized there?

The short answer is No. The US government requires a US Entry Waiver for Canadians who have a criminal record.

Do I have to wait 3 years after completing my sentence, to apply for a pardon?

The former Federal government recently changed the wait times for obtaining a pardon. You now need to have been trouble-free and completed all aspects of your sentence (including probation) for 5 years before you are eligible for a pardon for summary offenses, and 10 years for indictable offenses. However, you can and should apply for a pardon before the eligibility period is up, because getting a pardon can take up to 18 months or more depending on the length and complexity of your criminal record. Starting the process early ensures you won’t have to wait longer, later.

How do I apply for a pardon?

In order to apply for a Canadian Pardon, you need to go through a legal process that is defined by complex requirements and strict timelines. You can find out more on the Parole Board of Canada’s website if you are interested in attempting to apply yourself, but as with other legal matters, it is recommended that you obtain professional counsel to assist you with this life-changing legal process.

How long does it take the government to grant my pardon?

Once your application has been received by the Canadian government for independent review, it can take months to receive an answer because of the current backlog. The best way to ensure that the government processes your application quickly is to do your due diligence beforehand and make sure your application is 100% complete and accurate; that will safeguard against lengthy delays or even a dismissal of your application due to incomplete information.

If I'm having trouble with my application, is there a government hotline I can call or a government office I can take it to for help?

Unfortunately, there is not. Unlike other official documents such as passport applications, that have offices set up where you can walk in and receive assistance, applying for a record suspension is the sole responsibility of the applicant. That is why we recommend retaining an accredited professional firm to complete your application fully and correctly the first time.

Is my pardon guaranteed if I meet the eligibility requirements?

No one can guarantee the success of your pardon application because granting record suspensions resides at the sole discretion of the Parole Board. You may not be eligible for a pardon at all if you have very serious convictions on your record, such as offenses involving sexual violence. However, using an accredited firm like Dominion Pardons and Waivers can definitely increase your chances of success, because we understand the time frames and the requirements involved, and have already helpedhundreds of Canadians to obtain their pardons. The application approval rate of all pardons received by the Parole Board sits at over 90 percent, so your odds of success are good.

How much does it cost to apply for a pardon?

Under the new legislation, the government’s fee for a Canadian Pardon currently sits at $631, a substantial increase over previous years. If you retain Dominion to assist you, there will be a processing fee for us to subpoena your court documents, liaise with police and government bureaus, and complete your application. Most applicants find that the cost for our time and expertise is more than outweighed by the time and frustration involved in trying to do this unaided.

Is my pardon good for life?

Unless you are convicted of another criminal offense after obtaining your pardon, yes, your pardon is irremovable. Your fresh start will be good for life…and it starts here.

US Entry Waiver FAQ

We have compiled a list of frequently asked questions people have concerning their rights when it comes to US Entry Waivers. If you have a question that’s not on the list, please don’t keep it a secret – type your question here and we’ll answer it within 24 hours.

I have traveled across the border before with no problems. Why do I need a waiver all of a sudden?

Admission to the United States occurs through US Customs and Border Protection, whose agents have tremendous discretionary powers. Perhaps you got through because the particular agent you saw, at the particular port of entry you tried, just glanced at you and waved you through; the agent standing next to him might just as easily have chosen to do a thorough check of your passport and discovered your criminal record, and immediately denied you entry.

How does the US even know that I have a criminal record?

The US shares access to the CPIC database with Canada. CPIC is the criminal database maintained by the RCMP, containing the criminal record information of all Canadians. If you have ever been charged with a criminal offense or had your fingerprints taken, your name is in the CPIC system.

What criminal offenses do NOT require a US Entry Waiver to get into the United States?

Admission to the US is at the discretion of US Customs agents, so you might be able to enter the United States if you have a single misdemeanour offense, such as a DUI or disorderly conduct, on your record. Or not. You could also be denied entry if you have overstayed a previous trip to the US or have any one of a long list of different ‘crimes of moral turpitude’, like theft or fraud, on your record. Essentially, any kind of record at all could be grounds to deny you entry to the United States.

What if I’m just passing through the US, taking a connecting flight on my way somewhere else?

Unfortunately, you will need to clear US Customs to get on a plane taking off from American soil. Even if the States is not your final destination, you will be asked all the same questions, and if the agent does a scan that reveals your criminal record, you could be, at the very least, prevented from getting on that plane. At most, you could be arrested, detained, and have your possessions seized.

What happens if I try to enter the US without a US Entry Waiver?

If you have a criminal record, attempting to enter into the US by land or air without a waiver is an illegal act. You can risk it, but you may be barred from entering. If you try to re-enter after already being warned that you are inadmissible because of your criminal record, you can be arrested, questioned, and have your belongings confiscated. Trying repeatedly can be not only unpleasant, it can result in a permanent travel ban, which means you can be denied a US Entry Waiver even if you do later apply for one.

Who issues my US Entry Waiver?

The waiver is issued by the US Department of Homeland Security once your application has been approved and fees paid.

Once I get my waiver, can I travel freely back and forth between the Canada/US borders?

Yes, travel across the border is unlimited and hassle-free for as long as the term spelled out on the waiver – typically 1 to 5 years.

If I keep renewing my waiver, will they extend the time period it’s valid for?

If you stay trouble-free in both countries and continue paying the required renewal fees for waivers, yes,the term of your waiver should eventually lengthen and you may even be granted a permanent travel waiver, but this is at the discretion of Homeland Security.

I have obtained a Canadian Pardon (record suspension). Do I still need a US Entry Waiver?

It depends. If you have never tried to enter the US before, and you have now obtained a pardon, you could probably cross the border without any problems. But if you did try to enter the US before, then CBP will have you in their own American system as having a criminal record. Your Canadian pardon will not be recognized by US Customs. Even if you are not in their computer system, you might still show up in CPIC if you only just recently obtained your pardon. The only sure way to cross into the US trouble-free is with a US Entry Waiver.

How do I apply for a US Entry Waiver?

You can apply for an entry waiver by obtaining the appropriate documents from the US Customs & Border Protection website, or you can use an accredited processing firm like Dominion Pardons and Waivers. Seeking professional help to complete your application accurately and in a timely manner is recommended because of the complexity of the application process, and the time frames involved.

Could a lawyer or paralegal help me get my waiver application together?

Yes. However, it is important to find out whether the legal professional you approach has experience obtaining US Entry Waivers, as well as the necessary time and knowledge to devote to expediting your application. The US Waiver is a specialized document requiring finesse and experience to obtain. Another question to ask would be how much a law firm would charge to assist with the complex paperwork, given that most lawyers can charge hundreds of dollars to draft a single letter.

I need to travel to the US soon. How long does it take to get a waiver?

Unfortunately, processing a US Entry Waiver can take up to 18 months. That is because applications must meet exacting standards for accuracy and precision, and contain legal information that must be obtained from outside agencies such as law courts and RCMP, otherwise they will be summarily denied; secondly, you must submit your completed application to CBP officials at a US port of entry for their independent review, which can take months.

Isn’t there any way to expedite a waiver application – perhaps by paying more?

There are several ways that Dominion Pardons and Waivers expedites your US Entry Waiver application, but they don’t cost more than our standard fees. Essentially, due to the high volume of applications we process, we have the necessary experience to identify exactly what is needed to complete your application based on your own unique situation; recognize any issues, inconsistencies or missing information immediately; and process your application efficiently and accurately, the first time.

What is the fee for obtaining a US Entry Waiver?

The feecharged by Homeland Securityfor processing your application is currently $585 USD, regardless of the outcome of your application. Fees involved in assisting you with the process can vary depending on the nature of the work required to secure the relevant court records and supporting materials; contact us to discuss your particular situation.

Will Homeland Security take a favourable view of my certificate of completion from rehab?

It is recommended that you do submit any evidence of your reform or rehabilitation, as that will reflect positively on you. Having completed drug treatment, counselling or anger management programs can work in your favour. Any information that demonstrates you have been living as a productive citizen, such as a job letter, record of community service, proof of volunteer status, etc. can strengthen your application.